Mexico drug cartel violence hits tourist hotspots of Cancun and Los Cabos

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In January, a lone gunman entered the trendy Blue Parrot nightclub in the upscale Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen and opened fire. Chaos ensued as the crowd scrambled for cover because the gunman traded shots with another person within the club and security working the annual BPM music festival attempted to curb the melee.

When the bullets stopped flying in what is thought to be a medication cartel-related gunfight, five people were dead like a Canadian bodyguard caught in the crossfire and an American teenager who had been trampled to death as panicked partiers fled the club.

On Sunday, sunbathing tourists were forced to take cover on the white sand beaches of Los Cabos a favorite getaway at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula as gunmen unloaded and left three people dead.

Both of these events bookended a bloody eight months for the resort cities of both of Mexicos shore, heightening concerns that the countrys continuing drug war could leave more tourists dead and undermine Mexicos multibillion dollar tourism sector.

Were in a period of disequilibrium and it will require some time to return to equilibrium, Christopher Wilson, the deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News.

In Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that is home to both Cancún and Playa del Carmen, the government has listed 134 homicides this year, and this is nearly equal to the 165 the state saw in the entirety of 2016. The Benito Juárez municipality, including Cancún, has already surpassed last decades homicide total of 89 when it finished June using 95 murders and at nearby Solidaridad has registered 21 slaying through June, closing in on last years total of 26. In Los Cabos, homicides in the famed beach area are up 400 percent this year.

The U.S State Department, that last updated its Travel Warning for Mexico last December, cautioned travelers of the risks of travel in Baja California, but so far doesn’t have advisory for Quintana Roo.

Mexicos drug war, which started in earnest in 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón declared an all-out military offensive on the countrys narcrotraffickers, has left at least 200,000 dead. While current President Enrique Peña Nieto came in office in 2012 at time when violence was on the decrease, the bloodshed continues and in June the country saw a record amount of killings with the 2,566 homicides victims being the most in a month since the Mexican government started releasing that data in 2014.

The overall growth in violence in Mexico is because of the extradition of “Chapo” Guzmán.

– Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center

The skyrocketing demand for heroin in the USA because of the opioid crisis cartels are thought to make someplace better $19 and $29 billion annually in the U.S. drug marketplace and the splintering of big drug trafficking organizations after the arrests or deaths of their leaders are thought to be the principal factors for the spike in violence in areas like Cancún and Los Cabos.

The arrest and extradition of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán into the United States has created a massive power struggle within the Sinaloa Cartel, once the countrys biggest and most effective drug trafficking organization, and is thought to be the primary cause of violence along Mexicos Pacific shore. Disparate factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, along the climbing Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generación, are also known to be active in Quintana Roo.

The overall growth in violence in Mexico is because of the extradition of both Chapo Guzmán, Wilson said. Simply because of inner criminal group dynamics there is a natural waxing and waning of violence. The 1 constant is that there is not any governmental structure to react effectively and until that is implemented these kinds of flare-ups will continue to take place.

Mexicos tourism officials are undeniably concerned with the spike in killings and the corresponding bad press. Tourism is the fourth largest source of foreign exchange for Mexico, with visitors doling out an estimated $20 billion annually to pay a visit to the countrys shores, nightclubs and famed archeological ruins.

Drug war violence has already turned among the countrys preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the countrys most dangerous cities with dead bodies being hung from bridges, individual heads being abandoned at coolers outside city hall and shootouts happening at posh resorts.

In regards to Cancún and other Caribbean resort cities, nevertheless, both Mexican officials and external experts attest that while violent crime may be on the rise there is little likelihood of it reaching the endemic levels seen in Acapulco and other cities across the countrys Pacific Coast home to the traditional trafficking routes used by the cartels.

“Tourist security continues to be a constant priority for the government,” Daniel Flota Ocampo, director of Riviera Maya Tourist Promotion, told USA Today, including that the violence is between “criminal classes settling scores among themselves” and that police are taking action against them. In addition, he mentioned that the majority of the violence has occurred far in the comprehensive hotels frequented by tourists.

For the time being, it appears that the violence hasn’t discouraged tourists from traveling along Mexicos coasts. Occupancy rates at resorts in Cancún are in 90 percent and 74 percent in Los Cabos.

Mexico also found a record 35 million international travelers visit the country last year – a 9 percent jump in contrast to 2015. The Mexico Tourism Board intends to reach 50 million international visitors by 2021.

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